On the day after their bullpen had an unprecedented meltdown in Colorado but before they repeated it again that night, the St. Louis Cardinals added relief insurance as they signed former MLB All-Star reliever Mike MacDougal.
The 33-year-old right-hander has been assigned to Triple-A Memphis, and made his organizational debut on Wednesday night in Round Rock. MacDougal yielded two runs on two hits and two walks in one inning of work in the Redbirds’ 7-2 loss.
MacDougal began the spring with the Florida Marlins, but did not impress in camp and was released on March 23. He re-signed the next day with the Washington Nationals, his 2009 home, but on a minor league deal.
Recovering from a hip injury incurred last season while with the Nationals, MacDougal opened the season in extended spring training camp. He joined Double-A Harrisburg on May 9. Pitching in a total of 18 games this season between Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse, MacDougal posted a 4-1 record with a 4.78 ERA. His strikeout to walk ratio was 13:11 in 21 innings of work. Opposing batters hit .300 against him.
On July 1, MacDougal took an opt-out clause in his contract. Since he was not in the major leagues on that date, he declared himself a free agent.
MacDougal has a long history of injuries, brief success, followed by more injury and inconsistency. He originally signed with the Kansas City Royals after having been their first-round selection, taken 25th overall in the 1999 draft.
MacDougal made his major league debut in September 2001 as a 100 mph-throwing starter, but after a series of medical setbacks was converted to relief. In 2003, he saved 27 games and was an American League All-Star.
Following more health problems, MacDougal lost his closer’s job and was dispatched to the minor leagues, only to recapture his ninth-inning role with the Royals in 2005. After an injury-plagued first-half of 2006, he was traded to the Chicago White Sox at the deadline for a pair of minor leaguers.
Pitching well for the Sox, MacDougal earned a three-year, $6.45 million contract to avoid arbitration, which would tie him financially to the Southsiders for the 2007-2009 seasons. By 2008, a familiar story returned – more injuries, bad results and long trip back to Triple-A, where he appeared in 38 games with Charlotte.
With a 12.46 ERA to date, MacDougal was released by the White Sox on April 29, 2009 and signed a minor league deal with the Nationals four days later. He was assigned to Triple-A Syracuse, where he remained less than a month. After posting a 1.23 ERA and two saves in seven appearances with Syracuse, MacDougal threatened to opt out of his contract.
Instead, the Nationals purchased his contract, promoting him onto the major league roster on May 27. By June 6, he supplanted Joel Hanrahan as the Nats’ closer. MacDougal would go on to save 20 games for Washington, his highest save total at any level since accumulating 21 for the Royals in 2005.
Yet even 2009 was not entirely smooth. After picking up 16 saves in his first 17 opportunities, MacDougal struggled in the final weeks, posting an 8.53 ERA after September 1. Though he pitched until the very end of the season, it was later announced that the closer had suffered a hip injury that required surgery last October.
MacDougal was non-tendered by the Nationals in December 2009 and became a free agent. Though the club said publicly they wanted him back on a reduced deal, MacDougal instead ended up signing with Florida on the first day of spring training camp, February 18.
In nine seasons as a major leaguer, the Las Vegas native has a 14-21 record with 70 saves and a 4.09 ERA in 314 career games with the Royals, White Sox and Nationals.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Brian pens a column each Wednesday at the St. Louis Globe-Democrat and selected TCN content appears at FOXSportsMidwest.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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